Friday, April 8, 2011

Skin-On-Frame Kayak Workshop

When you speak about kayaks, either river or sea or racing, you can not miss to mention the ancient origin of these boats and how arrived in Europe through the contact with people who, only up to 1000 years ago, lived yet as at the Stone Age. Greenland, the isolated and hostile place in which Inuit had adapted to live, was reached as a result of tousands-years-old migration flows from the north-east Asia that had led them to cross the Bering Strait and to populate North America and the polar lands.
With stone tools, bones and tusks of animals, these intrepid pioneers worked the drift wood they found on the beaches along with the skins and tendons of relentlessly hunted animals, to build the sleds (for winter) and kayaks (used in summer).
The beginning of the workshop.
Andrea and Luisella waiting for the next step.
Francesco and Gianfranco at the band saw.
Combined square: a modern tool.
Today, with modern tools, yet the same project-kayaks are built according to the techniques of the time, no more for hunting but for the sport challenge. Each year, in the Land of Ice, the Inuit gather even with fans from other places of the world, to face a tough selection with speed races, arpoon launch, rolling skills and rope gym. The “National Championship of Greenland” is born to keep and pass on the ancient traditions. Are allowed, in fact, only kayaks, clothing and tools built according to ancient techniques.
The kayaks used in these games today are called SOF (Skin On Frame) and have retained their ancestral charm, even if made of selected woods and high-tech fabrics.
Coffe break. Very important.
Fresh fruits for builders.
Imagining the bow.

In the last decade in Italy, some fans took their first steps in the building of ancestral SOF, copies of the real hunting Greenland kayaks that today are exhibited in museums of northern Europe.
Thanks to Kayak Ways we organized, between March and April 2011, first ever in Italy, a workshop for the construction of SOF "modern" kayaks, ie those used in today's rolling competitions or at the same National Championship of Greenland.

Exceptional teachers have been Turner Wilson and Cheri Perry who led a small group of kayakers (from Catania, Genoa, Palermo and Ragusa) in the whole process of building a Qajaq (kayak in Inuit language) around their own anthropometric measurements. 


The superb tools of the Master.
Bending the ribs.

The work space, thanks to Giovanni Marletta.
Working the bow.
In ten days of work for twelve hours a day, starting from planks of wood (Iroko, Duglas, ash, oak, red cedar), reduced in strips or in long tables, with strokes of planer, drill, saw and spokeshave, has come to put together and "stitch" the skeleton of the boats, learning a lot about the shape of the hulls and how to modify these forms as a function of one use rather than another. 
The kitchen of the workshop.
Finishing of the coaming rim.

One frame is ready for the skin.

Arancini and ricotta cheese cake (Cassata Siciliana).
Sewing the coaming.
Colors for the skin.
 The timber frame is in fact sewn, to form a resistant lattice. The fabric cover is sewn. Than the cockpit coaming is sewn into the fabric and the painting will complete work of art (because at this point we are talking about art). 

Painting.
  
Andrea.
Luisella.
Hanging in a pubblic garden of Catania.
Looking at the bow from inside.
In the end, we did not miss the launch of the Qajaqs in the Mediterranean waters, under the slopes of snow-capped Etna, under the proud gaze of teachers Cheri & Turner, who also demonstrated their great skills and what we could do with these Qajaqs, revealing and explaining some of their “Inuit secrets”.
The first test from Cheri.
Her own environment...
Straitjacket roll.
Learning Inuit tricks. 

This was a very deep experience, that probably have involved souls more than hands.